The southern region of the Federal Republic of Germany was not spared from the Third World War. Soviet and Warsaw Pact forces streamed across the border here on D+0 as they had in the northern and central areas of the country. Fighting was fierce, casualties heavy, and collateral damage considerable. Lamentably, the fighting in southern Germany has only received a fraction of the attention and analysis that the campaigns farther to the north have. The reason for this is simply that the Battle for Germany was decided in the north. The fighting in southern Bavaria contributed little to the overall outcome of the war. Its diminishing relevance had, by D+5, relegated it to the status of a secondary front by both NATO and the Warsaw Pact.
The Soviet/WP plan for southern Germany was centered on a two-pronged attack into Bavaria. The northern prong’s axis of advance was fixed on Hof, Bayreuth, and finally Nuremberg, with this city being the objective of the first phase of operations. Once Nuremberg was secure, the future direction and objectives would be determined. It was anticipated that Nuremberg would be secured by D+2 at the latest, given the heavy resistance that the US VII Corps was expected to put up.
The southern prong’s objective in the first phase of the war was to capture the midsized city of Regensburg on the Danube. Divisions from the Soviet Central Group of Forces, reinforced by the Czech 4th Army, would cross the border and advance through the area referred to by US forces as the Chalm Gap. Soviet planners expected Regensburg to be in friendly hands by the end of D+1 at the latest. The NATO forces defending against this prong was made up of II West German Corps, supported indirectly by elements of the US 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment.
By D+5 neither city was controlled by Soviet/WP forces.
The northern prong’s push through the Hof Corridor had stalled and then come to a complete halt by 2300 hours on D+2. By that point, two factors prevented the prong from being reinforced and resuming the advance. The heavy losses in men and material in Northern Germany was the greatest contributing factor. Those losses had been partially made up by poaching desperately needed troops and weapons from yet-to-be committed Central Group of Forces divisions. In a sense, it was a matter of robbing Peter to pay Paul. As the Central Group’s troops and tanks helped reinforce the army groups on the North German plain, their absence sapped the combat strength of the Soviet/WP advance in the south. The second aspect was that VII Corps started to be heavily reinforced by the arrival of REFORGER units around the same time, increasing NATO’s combat power in northern Bavaria as Warsaw Pact strength diminished.
The southern prong’s advance was to go through the Chalm Gap, which was guarded by a squadron of the US 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment. 3/2 Cav staged a stubborn 24 hour long covering force battle before handing off responsibility for the main battle to the 4th Panzergrenadier Division. The 4th PgD, joined later by the 10th PzD fought delaying actions, coupled with frequent counterattacks against the main Warsaw Pact advance in the south, while other elements of the West German II Corps, and Territorial units challenged the secondary advance pointed at Straubing, a town on the Danube river located southeast of Regensburg.
A fraction of the reserve Soviet and Czech divisions in Czechoslovakia were being held back in strategic reserve for an invasion of Austria in the future, should Moscow decide this was necessary. Had these forces been made available at the start of hostilities, Soviet and WP forces would be already be across the Danube and pushing towards Munich.
The operational pause by Soviet and other WP forces on D+5 gave II Corps much-needed time to shift its forces, and resupply in preparation for the next enemy effort to capture Regensburg, and cross the Danube. The strategic reserve for II Corps was the 4th Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group. The Canadian formation had also been serving as the strategic reserve for the US VII Corps until the 1st Infantry Division had completed its REFORGER.
In the afternoon, the West Germans had requested permission to move the Canadians forward and assume defensive responsibilities of the 4th PgD, which was in need of a rest and refit period. With the permission of CENTAG’s commander, who was also VII Corps commanding general, the Canadians began moving east shortly after dusk.